I saw Asobi Seksu four
times on tour for their
first album. Since then, the band had broken up, been
reformed by core members James Hanna and Yuki Chikudate,
and released a stunning second album. I have been really
looking forward to seeing them play live again, and so i
was rather disappointed when they cancelled an EARL show
back in July. Well, rescheduling made me forgive them, and
so it was that i headed across town in utterly terrible rain-based
traffic on a Thursday to see them rock The EARL.
Now to be honest, i was on the Guest List for this show (the one perk of being
a Music Critic). Guitarist/vocalist/occasional drunkard Keith Vogelsong of
The Blue Hour invited myself and Tracers to see his band open, promising that
not only would he be more sober than he was at their
Other Sound performance, but that the band would have an actual drummer
this time and not simply a moody iPod providing the beats. This was all was
awfully nice, but really: i have enjoyed The Blue Hour in the past and i
would guess that barring any descent into serious alcoholism on Vogelsong's
part, i will continue to enjoy them, one anomalous show being fully excused.
The Blue Hour: A sober Keith Vogelsong.
Tonight, with their new drummer (whose name i did not catch), The Blue Hour cranked out a set of loud, catchy pop music. They played the "I'm Freaking Out" song that i have mentioned before on this webzine, as well as many other tunes that i have enjoyed from them in the past. The Blue Hour play music with noisy guitar, deep bass (which sounded really good this evening), and nice smattering of pop hooks. This is happy music to bounce along to, and they are rather fun to watch perform. All in all, a good set.
The Blue Hour: Tracy Clark in a skirt!
Club Awesome in action.
Up next was Club Awesome, another of the latest crop of Atlanta bands. They are a four-piece who play old fashioned angular post-punk with shouty, anthemic vocals. If you didn't like this style of music in the 80s or 90s, i would wager that Club Awesome won't really do anything for you. But for those of who have heard quite a lot of this stuff (reference points include Superchunk, The Housemartins, Hefner, and The
Wedding Present), they do it surprisingly well. It's always a fun, energetic time, and i found myself really enjoying them as i bounced along happily to the tunes. I hope that they keep this up.
Errol of Club Awesome gets a little excited at times.
Club Awesome's photgenic, but hard to photograph, drummer.
(He yelled at me
after The Pool Party for not haveing any pictures of him. So there you go.)
Finally Asobi Seksu took the stage. Now, for the first two acts i had a nice spot, just behind and to stage right of the central monitors. But when Yuki Chikudate took the stage, i was swarmed out of the way by tall guys staring at her with barely concealed lust. What the heck? I mean, sure she is cute and Asian and all that, but i was afraid that i was going to slip on the puddles of drool that were accumulating on the floor. Still, if it gets people to listen to the music, i suppose that her status as "sex symbol" is a good thing. And people certainly should pay attention to the music. Asobi Seksu are, in my professional opinion, the best shoegazer band currently extant. If they continue releasing records as wonderful as the two they have put out so far, they will enter that mythic pantheon of All-Time Greatest Shoegazer Bands, and be seated at the right hand of Lush. Yeah, they are that good.
Asobi Seksu's Yuki.
...and a nice full shot of her, for her many male "fans".
I might enjoy Ms. Chikudate's presence as "the best lead soprano since Liz
Fraser", as Tracers put it, but for me the real spectacle of the band is watching guitar guru James Hanna flail away at his instrument and dance around on his pedals. I love watching the man work as he wrenches beautiful, rich sounds out of his tortured guitar.
James Hanna at work.
Mr. Hanna's pedals.
New bassist Haji did a fine job as well, dancing around the stage and slinging his bass around as he laid the firm groundwork for their songs. The drummer did a great job too, really pounding his kit. You see, that's the secret to really great shoegaze, and what separates the Lushes from the Bleaches, if you will: really strong rhythms. With all the chaotic, messy, swirly melodies of the guitar and the vocals (and in Asobi Seksu's case, keyboards), you need a strong backing beat to keep the music from becoming ambient. All the greats knew that, and apparently Hanna and Chikudate kept it in mind when they hired their new rhythm section. Good work team!
Haji in bass thumping action.
That said, they played Strawberries and New Years off of Citrus,
both of which sounded even better than on record. And of course they
Happy But You Don't Like Me, their signature tune off of the
but they played it fast and furiously. And they covered the old 60s pop hit And
Then He Kissed Me, something i have heard them do before. This old Phil
Spector tune is perfectly in keeping with their overall sound. But then again,
Phil did invent the "wall of sound" approach, and is probably the godfather
of shoegaze. Well, its strange old uncle at the very least... Anyway, this
is a great cover, and they way they work it into their set, flowing seamlessly
in and out, is masterful. They make it look so effortless, as if they can just
pluck any random gem out of the swirling mess of their songs. Of course, as
i think about it, they must rehearse the heck out of those transitions, but
such professionalism really shows.
Overall, it was a mere 50 minutes from the first note until the last little bit of echo faded away. In that time, i felt wave after wave of powerful music washing over me, and i thoroughly loved it. I hope that some of Ms. Chikudate's stalkers enjoyed the music as well. I highly recommend this band to anyone and everyone. They are one of the great treasures of the American music scene right now. See them on a small stage before they get big enough to fill places like The Variety Playhouse. I say this for pragmatic reasons -- Ms. Chikudate is so petite that you won't be able to see her at all on a big stage!